ukgold-NewsletterThe UK Gold is a chilling exposé about the City of London’s dark financial underbelly, illuminating the complex hidden relationship between Westminster’s politicians and systemic corporate tax avoidance, giving rise to the ‘Second British Empire’. The consequences, according to the film, are two-fold. Firstly, the British government is denied trillions of pounds in the form of taxes, which could be used to support its people and combat poverty, as the documentary follows a vicar from Hackney in his political opposition to the City’s widespread tax problem. Secondly, tax havens generally see a concentration of wealth in the hands of the rich in their own countries, while their low tax rates compromise attempts to improve social infrastructure. The film is therefore a damning report on a current political issue.

Director Mark Donne has pointed out that the movie was a nonprofit endeavor, independent of corporate sponsorship, thus removing the restrictions and influence typically exerted on political documentaries. This has enabled the filmmakers to take a harsh and unforgiving investigative look at the situation as well as ‘name and shame’ those it holds responsible. Furthermore, the film suggests that politicians are prioritising the City’s economic growth over the needs of the British people in their protection of tax haven legislation. It is this blurring of lines as depicted in the film, which proves to be so interesting. This side to the problem indicates the depth and complexity of the matter at hand.

Furthermore, the film is beautifully shot. The director of photography, Joe Morris, has managed to capture the spirit of London throughout the film in his shots of Hackney’s markets and the cold streets of the financial district. The graphics used in the film also deserve commendation, for they are not only clear and effective, but are also creative and fun to watch, breaking up the footage of London and interviewees as well as supplementing Dominic West’s narration.

However, the film lacks the build up and drama of a stellar documentary. A good filmmaker can make any topic interesting; say tax avoidance, for example, and all the ingredients of a good documentary are there; a current political and economic subject, solid cinematography, cool graphics, a buzzing soundtrack, narration from Dominic West, and yet somehow the film doesn’t quite come together in the end. Donne fails to capture the audience’s imagination and the documentary begins to feel a little repetitive towards the finale. Additionally, Donne claims that his picture is intended as a ‘lesson’ of sorts for his audience. However, although he sheds light on the subject of tax avoidance in the UK, he does not provide a clear solution, thus ending the film on a relatively negative and empty note.

So sure, this is an interesting documentary – it provides relevant insight into today’s economic and political climate and for that reason alone it’s worth seeing, not to mention its other merits. However – and arguably more importantly – as a film, it just doesn’t quite live up to its potential, not quite the sum of all its parts.

The EEFF runs from June 25 – July 10.